Sunday, February 27, 2011

NY Times reports that Google is tightening down on how its search engine treats 'riff raff"

The New York Times today ran a front page story by Clair Cain Miller, “Seeking to Weed out Drivel, Google Adjusts Search Engine”, about reported efforts by the search engine industry leader to improve the search engine placement of “quality” or “professional” content, and reduce the effect of paid placement and amateurism.  The link is here.  

I’ve noticed that many searches produce results where the “target phrase” appears in a category listing or forum comment and is not germane to the topic of the article selected. So this effort will help make searching for information more efficient in that regard. But what seems to be going on is an attempt to reduce the presence of web pages that are mostly links or reproductions of bits of content from other more original pages.

In the late 90s and early 00’s, before social networking sites became more important with Web 2.0, flat sites with straightline html content and little automated content (pulled off of databases dynamically) often placed higher, which meant that amateur sites often outperformed corporate sites with respect to some kinds of information. That has gradually changed since around 2003 or so.

In the late 90s, most literature on web programming advised webmaster to code metatags for the phrases they wanted picked up. This effort turned out to be largely unnecessary. Most larger services indexed sites with any substance without the need for application or special coding from web owners. Most of them warned webmasters against rigging, such as repeating the same phrases too many times.

But as noted Friday, the “reputation” of the speaker or content provider, outside of the content of a particular posting, is bound to become more crucial in future web presence environments.

There's another problem search engines could fix: semi-syndicated newspaper stories that come up first in searches ought to be the original (as with a NYTimes story), not authorized copies (or maybe unauthorized) in other newspapers. That only complicates the Fair Use and copyright debate (even in the Righthaven cases).

Google's own account of the change (dated 2/24), "Finding more high-quality sites in search" is here. The change affects about 11% of searches, and the posting mentions the Personal Blocklist Chrome Extension.

No comments: